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The Kalevala is a book and epic poem which Elias Lönnrot compiled from Finnish and Karelian folklore in the nineteenth century. It is held to be the national epic of Finland and is traditionally thought of as one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. Karelian citizens and other Balto-Finnic speakers also value the work. The Kalevala is credited with some of the inspiration for the national awakening that ultimately led to Finnish government's independence from that of Russia in 1917.

The name can be interpreted as the "lands of Kaleva" (by the Finnish suffix -la/lä for place). The epic consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty cantos or "chapters" (Finnish runo).


Elias Lönnrot (1802–84) was a scholar and a district health officer in Kainuumarker, an eastern region of Finland which in his time was an autonomous Grand Duchy. The son of a tailor in the village of Sammattimarker, he entered the University in Turku (the successor of which is the University of Helsinkimarker) in 1822 and started his poem collection journeys in 1827. He made a total of eleven field trips during a period of fifteen years.

The poetry

The statue of Väinämöinen by Robert Stigell (1888) decorating the Vanha Ylioppilastalo (Old University House) built in 1870 in Helsinki, Finland.
Finnish folk poetry was first written down in the 1670s, and collected by a few hobbyists during the next centuries. In the 17th century, folk poetry vanished from Western Finland, when the European rhyme poetry displaced it. In the 19th century, collecting became more extensive and systematic. Altogether, almost two million verses were collected during this time. Of these, about 1,250,000 have been published; some 500,000 remain unpublished in the archives of the Finnish Literature Society and the collections in Estoniamarker and the Republic of Karelia and other parts of Russiamarker. By the end of the nineteenth century this pastime and the cumulating orientation towards eastern lands had become a fashion called Karelianism.

Lönnrot and his contemporaries (e.g. A.J. Sjögren and D.E.D. Europaeus) collected most of the poem variants (one poem might have up to two hundred variants) scattered across rural areas of Karelia and Ingria. They carefully noted the name of the poem singer, its age, the place of performance, and the date. During his fourth field trip, in September 1833, Lönnrot got the idea that the poems might represent a wider continuity when poem entities were performed to him along with comments in normal speech connecting them.

The poetry was usually sung to tunes built on a pentachord, sometimes assisted by the kantele (a five-string zither of a kind). The rhythm could vary but the tunes were arranged in either two or four lines consisting of five beats each. Sometimes the poems were performed antiphonally, sometimes they were a part of a "singing-match" between knowers of the tradition. Despite the vast geographical distance and customary spheres separating the individual singers, the poetry was always sung in the same metre, the so-called archaic trochaic tetrameter (usually called "Kalevala meter"). Its other formal features are alliteration, parallel sentences, and also inversion into chiasmus.

The chronology of this oral tradition is uncertain. The seemingly oldest themes (the origin of Earth) have been interpreted to have their roots in distant, unrecorded history while the seemingly latest events (e.g. the arrival of Christianity) seem to be from the Iron Age. According to Finnish folklorist Kaarle Krohn, some 20 poems of the Kalevala could be of Ancient Estonian origin or at least deals with a motif of Estonian origin.

Of the dozens of poem singers who contributed to the Kalevala, significant ones are:
  • Arhippa Perttunen (1769–1840)
  • Matro
  • Ontrei Malinen (1780–1855)
  • Vaassila Kieleväinen
  • Soava Trohkimainen
  • Opsta Köräinen

Lönnrot’s contribution to Kalevala

Lönnrot arranged the collected poems into a coherent whole. In this process he merged poem variants and characters together and left out verses that did not fit in or composed lines of his own in order to connect certain passages into a logical plot. He even invented a few names which could be used for a character throughout the whole story. It has been estimated that the Kalevala comprises: one third of word for word recordings by the collectors, 50% of material that Lönnrot adjusted slightly, 14% of verses he wrote himself based on poem variants and 3% of verses purely of his own invention. What can be thought to be Lönnrot's most significant contribution is the arrangement of the poems. In the preface of Old Kalevala (signed on February 28, 1835), Lönnrot highlights the possibility that somebody other than he could select different poems variants and that Kalevala would still be as genuine as it was on the day of its completion. As a matter of fact, Lönnrot added some 3,000 verses of poem variants in the end of the Old Kalevala for others to compare.


The first version of Lönnrot's compilation, Kalewala, taikka Wanhoja Karjalan Runoja Suomen Kansan muinoisista ajoista (The Kalevala, or old Karelian poems about ancient times of the Finnish people), also known as simply the Old Kalevala, came out in two volumes in 1835–1836. The Old Kalevala consisted of 12,078 verses or thirty-two poems.

Lönnrot continued to collect new material, which he integrated into a second edition, Kalevala (the Kalevala), published in 1849. This "new Kalevala" contains fifty poems, and is the standard text of the Kalevala read now.


Of the five full translations into English, the older translations by John Martin Crawford (1888), William Forsell Kirby (1907) and the more recent Eino Friberg translation (1989) follow the original rhythm (Kalevala meter) of the poems. The Canadian, Edward Taylor Fletcher, also translated selections of the Kalevala in 1869, reading them before the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec on 17 March of the same year.

The scholarly translation by Francis Peabody Magoun Jr. (1963) is an attempt to keep the literal meaning of the poem intact for study and preservation reasons and is written in prose; the appendices of this version also contain many notes on the history of the poem, comparisons between the original Old Kalevala and the currently most well-known version, and a detailed glossary of terms and names used in the poem. The most recent version by the poet Keith Bosley (1998) is written in a more fluid linguistic style.

A notable partial translation of the German translation (by Franz Anton Schiefner published in 1852) was made by Prof. John Addison Porter in 1868 and published by Leypoldt & Holt. An article on this version is available here.

So far the Kalevala has been translated into forty-nine languages. Parts of the book have been translated to sixty languages.

Partial list of translations in chronological order by language (Based partially on the list made by Rauni Puranen):

Language Year Translator Remark
Swedish 1841 M. A. Castrén old Kalevala (original of 1835)
1864–1868 Karl Collan new Kalevala (original of 1849)
1884 Rafaël Hertzberg free translation
1944 Olaf Homén abridged Swedish edition
1948 Björn Collinder entire Kalevala
1999 Lars Huldén and Mats Huldén entire Kalevala
French 1845 and 1867 Louis Léouzon le Duc
1927 Jean Louis Perret
1991 Gabriel Rebourcet entire Kalevala translated using old French vocabulary
German 1852 Franz Anton Schiefner
1885-1886 H. Paul
1967 Lore Fromm, Hans Fromm
2004 Gisbert Jänicke
English 1868 John Addison Porter Partial translation, via Franz Anton Schiefner's version
1869 Edward Taylor Fletcher Partial translation directly from Finnish (with a lengthy essay)
1888 John Martin Crawford Full translation, via Franz Anton Schiefner's version.
1907 William Forsell Kirby Second full translation. Directly from Finnish. Imitates the Kalevala meter.
1963 Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. Prose translation
1989 Eino Friberg Editing and introduction by George C. Schoolfield. Imitates the Kalevala meter selectively.
1989 Keith Bosley Uses a syllabic verse form to allow for accuracy and metrical variety.
Hungarian 1871 Ferdinánd Barna translated from Schiefner's German version
1909 Béla Vikár
1971 Kálmán Nagy
1976 István Rácz
1987 Imre Szente
Russian 1888 Leonid Petrovic Belsky [2349]
Estonian 1891–1898 M. J. Eisen
Czech 1894–1895 J. Holeček original rhythm; the first complete Slavic translation
Ukrainian 1901 E. Timcenko
Danish 1907 Ferdinand Ohrt selected parts
1994 Hilkka and Bent Søndergaard
Italian 1909 Igino Cocchi
1910 Paolo Emilio Pavolini
Lithuanian 1922 Adolfas Sabaliauskas
1972 Justinas Marcinkevičius
Japanese 1937 Kakutan Morimoto
1976 Tamotsu Koizumi
Spanish 1953 María Dolores Arroyo Partial translation using Perret's French version and Pavolini's Italian version
1985 Ursula Ojanen y Joaquín Fernández Full translation directly from Finnish. In verse.
1999 Juan B. Bergua
Hebrew 1954 Saul Tschernichovsky
1978 Sarah Tubia
Yiddish 1954 Hersh Rosenfeld
Romanian 1959 Iulian Vesper
Chinese 1962 Shih Hêng
1985 Sun Yong
Esperanto 1964 Johan Edvard Leppäkoski
Turkish 1965 Hilmi Ziya Ülken
1982 Lale and Muammar Oğuz
Norwegian 1967 Albert Lange Fliflet "i attdiktning ved" (nynorsk)
Polish 1974 Józef Ozga-Michalski based on the work of Karol Laszecki Full text translation
1998 Jerzy Litwiniuk Full text translation
Fulani 1983 Alpha A. Diallo
Dutch 1985 Mies le Nobel
Tulu 1985 Amrith Someshwar
Latin 1986 Tuomo Pekkanen
Vietnamese 1986 Cao Xuân Nghiêp
1991 Hoàng Thái Anh
1994 Búi Viêt Hòa's
Hindi 1990 Vishnu Khare
Arabic 1991 Sahban Ahmad Mroueh
Slovene 1991 Jelka Ovaska Novak Partial translation
1997 Jelka Ovaska Novak Full text translation
Swahili 1991 Jan Knappert
Bulgarian 1992 Nino Nikolov
Greek 1992 Maria Martzouk
Faroese 1993 Jóhannes av Skarði
Tamil 1994 R. Sivalingam (Uthayanan) Full translation. Introduction by Asko Parpola.
Catalan 1997 Ramon Garriga i Marquès, Pirkko-Merja Lounavaara Full translation directly from Finnish. In verse.
Persian 1998 Mahmoud Amir Yar Ahmadi and Mercedeh Khadivar Mohseni Full translation directly from Finnish. In verse.
Croatian 2001 Stjepan A. Szabo Shortened, narrative version.
2006 Slavko Peleh Full translation, partially from German.
Portuguese 2007 Orlando Moreira Full text in verse. (Partial version available online)
2009 José Bizerril and Álvaro Faleiros Only the first canto (runo) (in verse)

The Story


Cantos 1–10: The first Väinämöinen cycle: origin of Earth; the first man; Väinämöinen and Joukahainen’s encounter; Joukahainen promises his sister’s hand to Väinämöinen in exchange for his life; Aino (Joukahainen’s sister) walks into the sea; Joukahainen’s revenge; the wounded Väinämöinen floats into Pohjola (Northland); Väinämöinen encounters the Maid of the North and promises the Mistress of the North the Sampo in exchange for her daughter; Väinämöinen tricks the smith Ilmarinen into Pohjola where he forges the Sampo.

Cantos 11–15: The first Lemminkäinen cycle: Lemminkäinen steals the maid Kyllikki of the Island; they make a vow; she forgets her vow; Lemminkäinen travels to Pohjola to propose to the Maid of the North; deeds Lemminkäinen must accomplish: ski for the Demon’s elk, bridle the Demon’s horse and shoot the Swan of Tuonela (the land of the dead); a herdsman kills Lemminkäinen and throws him into the River of Tuonela; Lemminkäinen’s mother awakens him into life.

Cantos 16–18: The second Väinämöinen cycle: Väinämöinen' travels to Tuonela and to meet Antero Vipunen in order to get spells for boat building and sails to Pohjola; Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen compete for the hand of the Maid of the North.

Cantos 19–25: Ilmarinen's wedding: Ilmarinen accomplishes the needed deeds with the help of the Maid: ploughing the viper-field, quelling of the wolves of Tuonela and catching the pike out of the River of Tuonela; the wedding of Ilmarinen and the Maid of the North. The story of the brewing of the ale.

Cantos 26–30: The second Lemminkäinen cycle: Lemminkäinen is resentful for not having been invited to the wedding; he travels to Pohjola and wins the duel with the Master of Northland; an army is conjured to get back at Lemminkäinen; at his mother’s advice he flees to the Island of Refuge; returning home he sees that his house is burned down; he goes to Pohjola with his companion Tiera to get revenge but the Mistress of the North freezes the seas and Lemminkäinen has to return home.

Cantos 31–36: The Kullervo cycle: Untamo kills his brother Kalervo’s people except for the wife who begets Kullervo; Untamo gives Kullervo several tasks but he sabotages them all; Kullervo is sold as a slave to Ilmarinen; after being tormented by Ilmarinen’s wife, he exacts revenge and the wife gets killed; Kullervo runs away and finds his family unharmed near Lapland; Kullervo seduces a maiden and later finds out she is his sister; Kullervo destroys Untamola (the realm of Untamo) and upon returning home finds every one killed; Kullervo kills himself.

Cantos 37–38: The second Ilmarinen cycle: Ilmarinen forges himself a wife out of gold and silver but finds her to be cold and discards her; Ilmarinen then robs the sister of the Maid of the North from Pohjola; she insults him so he discards her; Ilmarinen tells Väinämöinen of the carefree life of Pohjola because of the Sampo.

Cantos 39–44: The plunder of the Sampo (third Väinämöinen cycle): Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkäinen sail to get the Sampo; they kill a great pike out of whose jaw bone the first kantele is made; Väinämöinen lulls everyone in the hall of Pohjola to sleep with his singing and the Sampo is stolen; the Mistress of the Northland conjures a great army, turns herself into an eagle and fights for the Sampo; the Sampo falls into the sea.

Cantos 45–49: Louhi's revenge on Kalevala: The Mistress of the North sends the people of Kaleva diseases and a bear to kill their cattle; she hides the sun and the moon and steals fire from Kaleva; Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen restore fire and Väinämöinen forces the Mistress to return the Sun and the Moon to the skies.

Canto 50: The Marjatta cycle: Marjatta gets impregnated from a berry she ate and begets a son, an allusion to Mary and Jesus Christ; Väinämöinen orders the killing of the boy; the boy starts to speak and reproaches Väinämöinen for ill judgement; he is then baptised king of Karelia; Väinämöinen sails away.


The main character of the Kalevala is Väinämöinen, a shamanistic hero with the magical power of songs and music. He is born of the primeval Maiden of the Air and contributes to the origin of Earth. Many of his travels resemble shamanistic journeys, most notably the one where he visits the belly of a ground-giant, Antero Vipunen, to find the words of boat generation.He plays the kantele, a Finnish stringed instrument that resembles and is played like a zither. One of his kanteles is made of the jaw-bone of a giant pike.His search for a wife is a central element in many stories; he never finds one, though. For example one of the brides, Joukahainen's sister Aino, drowns herself instead of marrying him. He is also part of the group who steals the Sampo, a magical mill, from the people of Pohjola.

Seppo Ilmarinen, a heroic artificer-smith (comparable to the Germanic Weyland and perhaps the Greek Daedalus) crafted the sky dome, the Sampo and more. Ilmarinen is also one of the group who steal the Sampo.

Louhi the Hag of the North, is a shamanistic matriarch of a people rivalling those of Kalevala who at one stage pulls the sun and the moon from the sky and steals the fire away from the people of Kalevala. She rules Pohjola alone after Lemminkäinen has killed her husband, Master of Pohjola. She promises her daughter to Ilmarinen in exchange for him building a Sampo.

Väinämöinen's young rival Joukahainen promises his sister Aino to Väinämöinen when he loses a singing contest. When Joukahainen attempts to gain his revenge on Väinämöinen by killing him with a crossbow, he fails, but his actions lead to Väinämöinen promising to build a Sampo in return for Louhi rescuing him.

Vengeful, self-destructive Kullervo who is born as a slave, sold to Ilmarinen and given work by Ilmarinen's wife whom he later kills. Kullervo is a misguided and troubled youth often at odds with himself and his situation. He often goes into berserk rage and in the end commits suicide.

Handsome but arrogant Lemminkäinen, whose mother must rescue him from the river of Death which runs through Tuonela, and bring him to life, echoing the myth of Osiris. Lemminkäinen is the third member of the group which steals the Sampo from Pohjola.

Some of the chapters describe ancient origin-myths, a long wedding ceremony, and the right words for magical spells of healing and craftsmanship.

The last chapter, Son of Marjatta, is an allegory of Christianization of Finland. Maid Marjatta becomes pregnant after eating a lingonberry (allusion of Maria to marja (Finnish for berry) and gives birth to a son. Since the son has been born out of wedlock, Väinämöinen sentences him to be killed. The infant boy then begins to speak and demands Ukko as his judge. After the infant has witnessed sad details of Väinämöinen's own past and of Väinämöinen's own culpability, Ukko declares the young infant boy as the King of Kareliamarker. In the end Väinämöinen exits the material world, but leaves his kantele (symbol for poetry and literary arts) as heirloom for Finns.

List of characters

People and things in the Kalevala
Gods Ukko (Jumala) | Tapio | Ahto | Ilmatar | Tuoni Surma | Kuutar | Melatar | Suonetar | Suvetar | Syöjätär | Loviatar | Tammatar | Terhenetar | Tuometar | Manalatar | Päivätär | Tuonetar | Vammatar | Vellamo | Untamo
Heroes Väinämöinen | Lemminkäinen | Ilmarinen | Osmotar | Kullervo |
Villains Hiisi | Louhi | Joukahainen | Untamo |
Others Aino | Kyllikki | Kauppi | Mielikki | Nyyrikki | Tiera | Antero Vipunen | Ainikki | Annikki | Iku-Turso | Kalervo | Kiputyttö | Tiera | Lokka | Marjatta | Märkähattu | Pakkanen | Tuurimarker | Sampsa Aslak Pellervoinen | Piltti | Suovakko |
Places Kalevala (Väinölä, Suvantola) | Tuonela | Suomimarker | Pohjola | Tapiola | Ahtola | Hiitolamarker | Horna | Ilma | Karjalamarker | Metsola | Osmo | Saarimarker | Savo | Untamola | Viromarker |
Things Kantele | Musti | Kemimarker | Otava | Pisamarker | Turjamarker | Sampo | Sima | Vuoksimarker | Otso |


  1. Birth of Väinämöinen.
  2. Väinämöinen's Sowing.
  3. Väinämöinen and Joukahainen.
  4. The Fate of Aino.
  5. Väinämöinen's Fishing.
  6. Joukahainen's Crossbow.
  7. Väinämöinen Meets Louhi.
  8. Väinämöinen's Wound.
  9. Origin of Iron.
  10. Ilmarinen Forges the Sampo.
  11. Lemminkäinen and Kyllikki.
  12. Kyllikki's Broken Vow.
  13. The Elk of Hiisi.
  14. Lemminkäinen's trials and death.
  15. Lemminkäinen's Restoration.
  16. Väinämöinen's Boat-building.
  17. Väinämöinen and Antero Vipunen.
  18. Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen, Rival Suitors.
  19. Ilmarinen's trials and betrothal.
  20. The Brewing of Beer.
  21. Ilmarinen's Wedding-feast.
  22. The Tormenting of the Bride.
  23. Osmotar Advises the Bride.
  24. The departure of the bride and bridegroom.
  25. The homecoming of the bride and bridegroom.
  26. Lemminkäinen's journey to Pohjola.
  27. The duel at Pohjola.
  28. Lemminkäinen's mother.
  29. The Isle of Refuge.
  30. Lemminkäinen and Tiera.
  31. Untamo and Kullirvo.
  32. Kullervo As A Shepherd.
  33. The Death of Ilmarinen's Wife.
  34. Kullervo finds his family.
  35. Kullervo finds his sister.
  36. Kullervo's Victory and Death.
  37. Ilmarinen's Bride of Gold.
  38. Ilmarinen's Fruitless Wooing.
  39. The Expedition Against Pohjola.
  40. The Pike and The Kantele.
  41. Väinämöinen's Music.
  42. The Recovery of the Sampo.
  43. The Sampo Lost In the Sea.
  44. The Birth of the Second Harp.
  45. Louhi's Pestilence on Kalevala.
  46. Otso, the Bear.
  47. The Robbery of the Sun, Moon and Fire.
  48. Capture of the Fire-fish.
  49. Restoration of the Sun and Moon.
  50. Marjatta.

Arctolatry in the Kalevala

The practice of bear-worship, arctolatry , was once very common in Finland and there are strong echos of this in the Kalevala.

Influence of the Kalevala

As a major part of Finnish culture and history the influence of the Kalevala is widespread in Finland from music to fine arts. The Kalevala's influence has also been felt in other cultures around the world although to a lesser degree.


The Kalevala Day is celebrated in Finland on the 28 February, which is how Elias Lönnrot dated his first version of the Kalevala in 1835.

Several of the names in Kalevala are also celebrated as Finnish name days, although this has no direct relationship with the Kalevala itself.


Several artists have been influenced by the Kalevala, most notably Akseli Gallen-Kallela who has painted many pieces relating to the Kalevala.

One of the earliest artists to depict a scene from the Kalevala is Robert Wilhelm Ekman. One drawing from 1886 depicts Väinämöinen playing his kantele.

Aarno Karimo was a Finnish artist who illustrated the beautiful Kuva Kalevala (Published by Pellervo-Seura in 1953). He died before completing it. Hugo Otava finished it using original sketches as a guide.

In 1989 the fourth full translation of Kalevala into English was published, richly illustrated by Björn Landström.


The Kalevala has not only been translated into over forty-five forms of speech but it has also been retold in many speeches and adapted to different situation.

The most famous example of the Kalevala's influence upon another author is most likely with J.R.R. Tolkien. He claimed the Kalevala as one of his sources for the writings which became the Silmarillion. For example, the story of Kullervo has been extensively used in the Silmarillion (including the sword that speaks when the anti-hero uses it for a suicide) as the basis of Túrin Turambar in Narn i Chîn Húrin. Echoes of the Kalevala's characters, Väinämöinen in particular, can also be found in the wizards of The Lord of the Rings.

The German translation of the epic was an inspiration for Longfellow's 1855 poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which is written in the same metre (trochaic tetrameter), and also inspired the British science fiction writer Ian Watson to write the Books of Mana duology: Lucky's Harvest and The Fallen Moon.

It is often claimed that the Estonianmarker national epic Kalevipoeg (compiled and written by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, first published 1853) was somewhat inspired by the Kalevala. Mainly because both Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen are mentioned in the poem and that the overall story of the Kalevipoeg (Kalev's son) bears some major similarities with the Kullervo story.

Another famous book is the children's book Koirien Kalevala (The Canine Kalevala) written and illustrated by Mauri Kunnas. (Translated into English by Tim Steffa). This book inspired the American (US) cartoonist Keno Don Rosa to draw a Donald Duck (both of whom enjoy a widespread popularity in Finland) story based on the Kalevala, called The Quest for Kalevala.

The Neustadt Prize winning poet and playwright Paavo Haavikko who is regarded as one of Finland's finest writers, is also known to have taken a lot of influence from the Kalevala.

Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) - an American science fiction and fantasy author of Finnish descent - is best known for his series inspired by the Kalevala. In each of the books which comprise the "Otava Series" - Saga of Lost Earth's (Ace Books, 1966), Star Mill (Ace Books, 1966), The Stolen Sun (Ace Books, 1967), and Tramontane (Ace Books, 1967), an Earth descendant of one of the four main heroes of the Kalevala is reborn into an avatar's role in order to re-enact adventures on Otava, the planet of origin of the Kalevala pantheon. Petaja's Otava series brought him readers from around the world, while his mythological approach to science fiction was discussed in scholarly papers. A fifth book in the cycle, Return to Otava (1970), is unpublished. Another Petaja novel unconnected with the series but related to the Kalevala is The Time Twister (Dell, 1968).

Kullervo is one the major influences on British fantasy author Michael Moorcock's sword and sorcery anti-hero, Elric of Melniboné.

Parts of the Kalevala are recited by Colonel Vereshchagin in Robert Frezza's A Small Colonial War and by Michael Havel in S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire.


Music is probably the area which has the richest influence from the Kalevala, which is fitting because of the nature that the original folk singers would perform the poems. Because of the folk music history of the Kalevala there have been a few folk music records and anthologies based upon or claiming inspiration from the Kalevala.

The most famous music inspired by the Kalevala is probably that of the classical composer Jean Sibelius. Twelve of Sibelius' best known works are based upon and influenced by the Kalevala, including his Kullervo, a symphony for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra that he composed in 1892. There are also three contemporary operas based on the Kalevala (Sammon ryöstö, Marjatta and Thomas) composed by Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Classical music is however not the only area of influence. There was a Finnish progressive rock band called Kalevala in the seventies. They made three albums, which are not currently available as CDs, however an anthology set was published in 2004.

The Finnish metal band Amorphis have based several concept albums on the Kalevala using the original translation as lyrics. The band are well known for their use of the Kalevala as a source for their lyrics. Their albums specifically inspired by the Kalevala are Tales from the Thousand Lakes, Elegy, Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger. Also, Finnish Folk metal band Ensiferum have based several songs such as "Old Man" and "Little Dreamer" on the Kalevala as well. On Ensiferum's 2006 EP, Dragonheads, the third track, entitled "Kalevala Melody" is an instrumental version of "Vaka vanha Väinämöinen". The Finnish folk metal band Turisas used a section of runo 9 "The Origin of Iron" nearly verbatim for the lyrics of their song "Cursed Be Iron" (on The Varangian Way). Also, Finnish female-fronted metal band Amberian Dawn used lyrics inspired by the Kalevala in their album "River Of Tuoni", as well as in its successor.

The Finnish metal band "Sentenced" used the frozen land of "Pohjola" as isperation for the albums "Journey to Pohjola" and the finnish death metal pillar album "North from Here" released in 1992 and 1993.

Also, the Karelian Finnish folk music group Värttinä has based some of its lyrics on motifs from the Kalevala.

In 2003, the Finnish progressive rock quarterly Colossus and French Musea Records convinced 30 progressive rock groups from all over the world to compose musical pieces based on assigned parts of the Kalevala. The result was a three-disc, multilingual, four hour epic of the same name, and can be regarded as one of the most ambitious musical projects ever. See: Kalevala


In 1959 a joint Finnish/Soviet production entitled Sampo (aka The Day the Earth Froze) was released, inspired by the story of the Sampo from the Kalevala.

The martial arts film Jadesoturi (aka Jade Warrior), released in Finland on October 13, 2006, is based upon the Kalevala and set in Finland and China.

Historic interpretations of Kalevala

Several interpretations for the themes in Kalevala have been put forward. Some parts of the epic have been perceived as ancient conflicts between Finnics and Samis. In this context, the country of Kalevala could be understood as Southern Finland and Pohjola as Lapland. However, the place names in Kalevala seem to transfer the Kalevala further south, which has been interpreted as reflecting the Finnic settlement expansion from the South that came to push the Samis further to the north. Some scholars locate the lands of Kalevala to East Karelia, where most of the Kalevala stories were written down. In 1961 a small town of Uhtua in the Sovietmarker Republic of Karelia was renamed "Kalevala," perhaps to promote that theory.

Proponents of a Southern Kalevala argue that the name Kaleva probably was first recorded in an atlas of al Idrisi in the year 1154, where a town of qlwny (or tlwny) is recorded. This is probably present-day Tallinnmarker, the capital of Estoniamarker, known in old East Slavic sources as Kolyvan. The Finnish word Kalevan ("of Kaleva") has almost the same meaning as Kalevala. The Saari (literally "the Island") might be the island of Saaremaamarker in Estonia, while the people of Väinölä might have some resemblance with the Livonian tribe of Veinalensis in present-day Latviamarker, mentioned in the 13th century chronicle connected to Henry of Livonia. Ancient Finns, Estonians and Livonians spoke similar Finnic dialects and are thought to share common ancestry.

However, Matti Kuusi and Pertti Anttonen state in their book "Kalevala Lipas" (Finnish Literary Society, 1985) that such terms as "the people of Kalevala" or "the tribe of Kalevala" are made up out of whole cloth by Elias Lönnrot. Moreover, they contend that the word "Kalevala" is very rare in traditional poetry and that by emphasizing dualism (Kalevala vs. Pohjola) Elias Lönnrot created the required tension that made the Kalevala dramatically successful and thus fit for a national epic.

Lastly, in common with loan words from Indo-European — in particular, the North Germanic languages — the Sampo cycle is considered to be a borrowing from Scandinavian cultures to the west.

See also



Articles and Papers




  • The Kalevala Graphic Novel, a complete comic book version of the 50 chapters of the Kalevala by Finnish artist Kristian Huitula, translation by Eino Friberg, ISBN 952-99022-1-2

  • The Magic Storysinger: A Tale from the Finnish Epic Kalevala, M. E. A. McNeil, a retelling in a style friendly to children, ISBN 0-88045-128-9

  • The Quest for Kalevala, Uncle Scrooge #334, by Keno Don Rosa, A story in tribute to the Kalevala featuring Scrooge McDuck and some characters from Kalevala, ISBN 0-911903-55-0

  • Epic of the North by John Ilmari Kolehmainen (1973)


  • The Kalevala and the World's Traditional Epics, edited by Lauri Honko (2002) ISBN 9517464223
  • A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfield (1998) ISBN 0803241895
  • Finland: a cultural encyclopedia, ed. by Olli Alho (1997) ISBN 9517178859
  • Finland: A Cultural Outline by Veikko Kallio (1994) ISBN 9510194212
  • The Uses of Tradition : a Comparative Enquiry Into the Nature, Uses and Functions of Oral Poetry in the Balkans, the Baltic and Africa, ed. by Michael Branch and Celia Hawkesworth (1994) ISBN 0903425386
  • Religion, Myth, and Folklore in the World's Epics, ed. by Lauri Honko (1990) ISBN 0899256252
  • Kalevala Mythology by Juha Y. Pentikäinen (1999) ISBN 0253336619
  • The Key to the Kalevala, by Pekka Ervast, John Major Jenkins, Tapio Joensuu, ISBN 1-57733-021-8
  • Studies in Finnish Folklore by Felix J. Oinas (1985) ISBN 9517173156
  • Finnish Folk Poetry, ed. by Matti Kuusi et al. (1977) ISBN 9517170874
  • Folklore and Nationalism in Modern Finland by William A. Wilson (1976) ISBN 0253323274
  • Väinämöinen, Eternal Sage by Martti Henrikki Haavio (1952)
  • Sammon Arvoitus (The Riddle of the Sampo) by E.N. Setälä (1932)
  • Women of the Kalevala by Mary Caraker (1997) ISBN 0878391061



External links

Online versions of the Kalevala

Online versions of the Kalevala in other languages

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